19 Dec , 17

Push Pull Leadership

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Push Pull Leadership is the topic of discussion in this article today.

Im fortunate in that I’m writing from Scottsdale, AZ today which is a nice change from the winter weather in my hometown.

Call Sign Niner… (aka my wife) was in need of some decent weather to lift her mood.

Interesting side note… you may have guessed Call Sign Niner is a radio handle used in rad ops or radio communication.

In Canadian use the big boss designation is Callsign-Niner, with a “9” designating which is a unit commander. At my house… the family unit.

An individual monitoring the  radio net but  who is not the actual commander may use the call-sign “Niner-Zulu”.  That would be like my kid answering the phone for my wife… in fact now that I think about it I should make her answer the phone as Niner-Zulu!

As well, the codeword “Sunray” is also used to designate a unit commander.

When on an operation, our Tactical Commander was designated as Sunray… At my house my wife is Call Sign Niner.. Same same!

Anyway, what I wanted to discuss is some strategies you can use for leadership development in your life to create a group of people who are willing to do anything you ask… including putting their life at risk for a belief.

You see, when you deal in critical incidents where the potential for the loss of life is a very real possibility, there is significant ground work that must be done before any operation is conducted.Push Pull Leadership - Todd Lamb

How do you create buy in… or ask someone to put their life on the line for a belief?

How does this same leadership ideology translate to situations that don’t require people to put their lives on the line?

Let me share my experience.

If I may elaborate:

The difference between being successful or just average, in particular in today’s economy, whether it be the private sector motivating millennials or the public sector doing the work of a governmental bureaucracy, is recognizing the balance in your leadership approach.

Do you push or do you pull.

In policing, or an paramilitary organization, the desire to push subordinates remains a primary tool for those in management.

Pushing is often the style of those who utilize positional power as a tool to drive compliance and produce results.

This doesn’t mean there is no place for this style, in fact it can be very effective for some personalities in a work group. There are those who are simply driven to perform by their intrinsic desire to please someone in a position of power.

A leader who recognizes this personality trait can leverage this quality to create incredibly high performing teams.

If however, this is the singular approach to leadership in today’s workforce, an organization lead in this manner will find itself with an inability to retain its most qualified talent.

Listen, I have experienced this first hand. Where my generation of team members who put their life on hold to ensure they could answer the call, the generation that followed had a very different mindset.

Not that they wouldn’t answer the call, they did willingly and routinely. It simply required a different strategy to motivate.

Here is the most interesting part…

The skill level of the generation after mine was exceptionally higher.

Therefore, as the team leader, simply using the position as the TL to develop the team, have them buy into the lifestyle of being on call 24/7/365 required a unique approach.

I assure you, I didn’t always succeed, but if I could achieve 80% buy in and get the desired result in terms of performance, I considered this a success.

Here are some strategies I implemented during my tenure as the TL, you may find useful:

To borrow a quote from one of my favorite authors, Peter Drucker …”Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things…”

You see, great leaders, lead with purpose first. They are obsessed with what they do, and the purpose they serve is even bigger than themselves.

It is who they are.

When it came to executing a tactical mission, making sure my team members and members of the public would be safe… I was obsessed.

I lived it and breathed it.

I didn’t want any of my members more fit, more ready or prepared than I was. It was my craft.

The reality is… it became theirs as well and there were those who surpassed my abilities in areas.. But that is what mentors and leaders should be working toward (and it is an article all on it’s own).

Push Pull Leadership - Alpha NationThis is an example of a PULL style of leadership… rather than being directive, your own actions inspire the actions of others around you.

This means you create a culture of excellence which inspires people to want to join.

I certainly did not create that culture, it was done by those who came before me. The only changes I had to make was to find strategies to communicate to the new generation.

So how do you take this into your environment? There are a couple of key steps you can implement today.

  1. Pull leaders take responsibility for the success of their organization and people. This means you own your shit… If a mission fails it’s on you… if it succeeds it is because of your team.
  2. Work to become attractive to others. Improve your work ethic and communication skills.
  3. Inspire with values. This means your values, the values of your team members and the values of your organization must align. If they do not, when you ask a member to be #1 through the door of an armed suspect, they will never do it. That example can be worked into any leadership scenario. The point here is you must be aligned and if you are not it will quickly become apparent.
  4. You are an advocate of your organizations and people. If you spend time complaining about the shortcomings of your work group, engage in gossip and do not work to elevate those who you lead, you will fail… period. Become a beacon of positivity, elevate those around you and you will find a group of people who will go to war for you.

If leadership is something you are interested in developing you must understand how these two approaches are related.

Stand Apart,




Todd Lamb is one world's most trusted sources of Health and Fitness information and programming. He has dedicated his life to the service of others having served as a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment in the Special Service Force and as 17 year veteran Police Officer with 10 years on SWAT and 4 as a Team Leader. Todd is dedicated to transforming the lives of 1,000,000 men through honest science based information backed up with years of practical experience in Tactical Operations. Todd is a Best Selling Author of multiple best selling fitness programs and the book STAND APART

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